Emily Jane Traub, a sophomore religious studies/creative writing major, gives a firsthand account of her recent trip to Europe over the January Term. Professors Federica Francesconi and Steve Maughan led Traub and her fellow students on a journey to learn about “Early Modern Identities in Paris and Venice.”
Click here to check out photos from Paris and Venice on the C of I Flickr page!
When I think of my study abroad experience, my mind instantly overflows with memories. It is an experience that will stay with me forever, and one I highly recommend to everyone interested not only in bettering their knowledge of the world, but also in bettering themselves as people. For me, studying abroad far exceeded my expectations. I learned all I expected to—and more—about the art, history and culture of the places I visited, and in the process, I also learned about myself.
On the trip, we spent a week in Venice and a week in Paris. During our stays, we visited cathedrals, synagogues, museums, historical sites and more, to the point that I could hardly keep track of them without writing it all down. But I loved every second of it. It was a complete cultural emersion. The theme of the experience was to grasp an understanding of the groups of people that lived in these cities and the identities they embodied. That goal was quickly achieved through our explorations.
Several moments stood out to me as the most memorable learning experiences. One was the day we explored the Venetian islands of Murano and Burano. We spent a lot of time around the local people, and I felt completely engulfed in the culture, which brought me a new perspective and understanding. We were even able to watch a glass maker create beautiful pieces in his shop, and the islands ended up being one of my favorite places we visited. I was also able to attend a Catholic mass at Santa Maria Basilica in Venice, which was an incredible experience for me as a religious studies major. It’s one thing to read about something and another to experience it firsthand.
In Paris, one of the most impactful experiences was visiting the Musee D’Orsay, where I was able to see several paintings by Monet, my favorite painter. Being surrounded by such beautiful art became an emotional experience—witnessing what so many people have revered throughout history was incredible. The other experience that really stood out to me was the side trip that my fellow travelers and I took to Versailles. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the French Revolution, Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette in the past, but actually being in the place where they had lived and seeing what they created, such as Marie Antoinette’s mock village in the palace gardens, helped me understand them as people and made their stories—our history—seem quite real and significant.
Lastly, as a person, this trip provided me with invaluable opportunities for growth. Whether I was ordering a sandwich in a tiny Italian shop where no one speaks English or getting lost in the Metro systems of Paris, these challenging situations pushed me far outside of my comfort zone, forcing me to truly try my best and not hold back. They also helped me prove to myself what I am capable of, which was a huge confidence boost. The best part was, I didn't have to do it alone. Studying abroad with a group of students and professors provided me with instant companionship throughout these explorations and challenges. And, even though most of us hadn’t talked much before the trip, we all bonded through sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience. My advice to anyone would be to seize the opportunity to study abroad whenever possible, because it will prove to be life-changing.
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